Temple's Dunphy keeping focus on players as Owls near end of season

Dave Uram
March 08, 2019 - 12:14 pm
Temple Owls head coach Fran Dunphy watches from the sideline as they take on the Connecticut Huskies in the first half at Gampel Pavilion. Temple defeated UConn 78-71.

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Temple Owls head coach Fran Dunphy, who’s about to finish his last of 30 years as a head coach in Big 5 basketball (Penn then Temple), is absolutely not interested in the coming days being anything about him. 

After a very important 78-71 win at UConn to lock up a first-round bye in the AAC Tournament, a reporter asked Dunphy twice about whether he’s reflected on the fact that Saturday’s regular season finale against UCF at Liacouras Center will be his last home game. 

“It’s critical,” Dunphy answered the first time. “It’s obviously very, very critical for our season, so I know how important it is, but I haven’t spent much time (reflecting). We were worried about UConn here tonight, so on the ride back home I’ll plug in the UConn game, and I’ll watch every bounce. May watch it twice.” 

READ: Temple hopes for NCAA run in Dunphy's farewell season

The reporter followed up: “So, I was referring to Saturday being your last —,” but Dunphy politely interrupted.

“You know what Saturday means,” Dunphy said. “It’s Shizz (Alston Jr) and Ernest (Aflakpui) having their last games at home on a Senior Day, which I hate anyway. If it’s going to be any kind of attention put on me, I’m going to hate it even more. But I’m so proud of these guys. That’s what I’m worried about. But I’m, no I’m not … I don’t even want you bringing it up.” 

Dunphy gets criticized by some Temple alums for a lack of success in the NCAA Tournament. Prior to this season, the Owls only made it once in the last five seasons. In his seven NCAA Tournament appearances at Temple, the Owls won only two first-round games, never making it past the Round of 32. In Dunphy’s time at Penn, he ran an Ivy League powerhouse with nine trips to “The Big Dance” and a first-round upset of Nebraska in 1994. 

But deflecting the spotlight away from him and focusing on his seniors is partly what makes “Dunph” a tremendous teacher and ambassador for Philadelphia basketball. 

The win over UConn put the Owls at 22-8 overall and 12-5 in the conference. They’re considered a bubble team for the tournament. The latest Bracketology prediction from ESPN’s Joe Lunardi, released Friday morning, puts the Owls in one of the “First Four” play-in games against NC State, with the winner getting the 12-seed in the South Region to face Marquette in the first round. Simply put, the Owls need all the wins they can get. And a deep run in the AAC Tournament wouldn’t hurt either. 

Alston was phenomenal on Thursday, pouring in a career high 34 points on 12 of 14 from the floor and four of five from distance. It was the Huskies' first loss at Gampel Pavilion this season. 

Dunphy doesn’t want these final weeks and days to be about him, but it’s fairly obvious that Temple’s players, led by Alston, will do everything they can to make sure “Dunph” is directly under the spotlight, going out in style.